Last time I went up to the Etihad we came away with a win that took us into the Champions League. How times have changed since then. We did not invest in the team in the manner that many of our loyal supporters hoped for. Manchester City continued to invest Billions in buying every player on the planet and now they are a fixture in the Champions League (albeit not all that a successful one) whilst we are still a team trying to break into the top four.
Our recent record against Citeh has been abysmal and history will record that yesterday was no different. In a few years time all anyone will see is that we were soundly beaten 4-1 but that does not really tell the story of this game. Four Penalties, two of which were missed, Spurs with 19 shots (only one less than City), and playing some inventive football at times.
Some strange refereeing decisions contributed to what was a very watchable game of football and we can look back at the Soldado penalty miss (from one of the penalties that probably shouldn’t have been given) as a turning point of the ‘What if?’ variety. Shortly after that Soldado had another chance to level the scores as well but when you are up against the likes of Sergio Agüero you have to take those chances, and equally, you have to get the defensive side of the game right.
So where are we in the big scheme of things? A quick look at the table shows us as only 2 points behind the current 4th place occupied by West Ham. Given that they play Citeh next week and we play Newcastle it is certainly not a major concern at the moment. We are 5 points down on the same time last season but interestingly 1 point up on the equivalent fixtures (because of the defensive performance at Arsenal) so again – not all doom and gloom.
How close are we to being a good side and is Pochettino getting his message over to the players? At times yesterday our attacking play caused City’s defence a number of problems and I see no reason not to continue with that attacking line up. Soldado, whilst not scoring played a major part on most of what we did in and around their area. I see no reason why he should not get a run of games but I would like to see the service to him improving as well as the support. That said our full backs do need to learn when they need to get back quickly. Our turnaround speed (converting defence into attack and vice versa) is still too slow for my liking and it was noticeable how quickly City could change direction when needed. We need to emulate that.
Defensively is where we have problems and this is where I think we need to be more settled in all competitions. Less of the ‘different ten outfield players’ in the Europa, and more of a settled team selection so the ‘partnerships’ can learn to work together. I’m not going to argue about the choice of Fazio over Vertonghen as that is a decision that Pochettino made, possibly for reasons that we know nothing about (performances/attitudes in training etc) and Fazio had probably done enough to earn that chance anyway in my opinion. Unless we appeal his card (which we should – that was never a clear goalscoring opportunity) that decision may be taken out of Pochettino’s hands anyway. Danny Rose has had a good season so far and I see no reason to change that as yet. Anyone facing the likes of Agüero on that form is going to struggle as demonstrated by the inept at times, showing from our Club Captain. Eric Dier again looked composed and unfazed by the occasion and is a good stand in (or more) for Walker.
No, the answer in my opinion is consistency in selection in the key areas from game to game using rotation to rest 4 or five players, not the whole team. On Thursday we play Asteras Tripolis in a game that we have to win if we want to avoid the necessity of getting a result in Istanbul in December and that is followed by games against Newcastle, Brighton and Villa. All should present us with the chance to get back on track and gain some level of consistency.Why not register (It's free) and join in our discussions during the 2014/15 season
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